The Gordon Lett Foundation (Fondazione Gordon Lett) is a family foundation dedicated to the memory of Commendatore Major Gordon Lett, Distinguished Service Order, Medaglia Argento [Italy], Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.
The current Chairman of the Foundation is Commendatore Brian Gordon Lett QC, Gordon Lett’s son.
The Foundation was privately set up in 2001 by members of the Lett family to commemorate the courage and self-sacrifice of the Italian partisans and civilians during the Italian War of Liberation between September 1943 and April 1945. Gordon Lett was an escaped prisoner of war who became a partisan leader. He was based in the valley of Rossano, in the mountains of northern Tuscany, and owed his life to the Italians who sheltered and fought with him between October 1943 and March 1945, when he was ordered back through the front line to prepare for the final push against the Germans and Fascists.
The Foundation does not accept donations. It is funded purely by the Lett family.
The Foundation commemorates the fallen by laying wreaths at appropriate monuments in Italy, by helping to establish new monuments, and by organising commemorative services and events. It commemorates the courage of those who survived by researching the files of the Allied Screening Commission, presently held in the US National Archives in College Park, Maryland, and also by research at the UK National Archives, Kew, London.
One result of the Foundation’s work has been the discovery of a Register of Medals awarded, but never presented, to Italians for their courage when assisting the Allied cause. These medals awards were approved by the military commanders in the field, but an embargo was subsequently was placed by the British government in 1948 on the giving of medals to Italian nationals. Thus, with a single exception, it is the Foundation’s belief that no medal from the Register of medals has actually been conferred upon the person who won it. Further detailed research has revealed the stories of each individual medal winner’s courage, as documented in the Allied Screening Commission files.
As a part of its commemorative work, the Foundation has presented copies of the medals to a number of the families of those who won them, together with copies of the file detailing the heroism of the medal winner. - This work is ongoing
At that time, the Foundation was not aware of the existence of the Medal Register in the US National Archives. In October 2014, the Chairman stumbled across it by chance, during a research visit to those archives. Further research led to the discovery of some of the individual files which supported the medals.
The Foundation continued to research the Medal Register, returning to the US National Archives in June and November 2016.
In October 2016, the Foundation conducted a search for the Pieruccini family of Deccio di Brancoli, Vinchiana, near Lucca, Tuscany. In 1943 and 1944, there had been a network of helpers in the area of Vinchiana di Lucca, Tuscany, which had been sheltering escaped Allied prisoners of war. Dora Pieruccini, a lady aged 29 at the relevant time and blessed with six sisters, was a leading figure amongst the Vinchiana helpers. Dora had been known as the “Mother of Prisoners of War. She had been approved for the grant of a King’s Medal for her outstanding courage. The Chairman discovered that although Dora herself had died in 2001, three of her sisters, who had also helped escapers, were still alive. The Foundation therefore moved quickly, and on 12 December 2016, in a ceremony held in the splendid “Hall of Mirrors” in the commune of Lucca, courtesy of Mayor Professor Tambellini, the Chairman presented a replica King’s Medal and a copy of the Allied Screening Commission file to one of Dora’s surviving sisters, Beatricia Pieruccini. Sadly the other two surviving sisters, Paola and Genni, were not well enough to attend. The ceremony was also attended by Dora Pieruccini’s great great niece, named Dora, who was only a few weeks old. Click here for the Chairman’s speech.
The Foundation is currently searching for any surviving relatives of other medal winners from the Vinchiana network: Guglielmo Giannechini, Alfonso Lazzarini, Maria Poli and Emilio Angeli.
The Foundation’s work is continuing throughout central and northern Italy, in the hope of contacting and informing the surviving families of all medal winners. Notwithstanding the decision of the British Government in 1948 that the medals should not be bestowed on their winners, the Foundation believes that the surviving families have a right to know how highly the courage of their relatives was regarded.
Contact with the Foundation may be made via email to brianbrianlettauthor.com